Issue 25, Editorial - a LEAP and a step towards Open Access

Judith Winters *

Cite this as: Winters, J. 2009 Editorial - a LEAP and a step towards Open Access, Internet Archaeology 25.

I start this editorial on a sad note with the recent death of our first Managing Editor Dr Alan Vince. Alan was appointed as Managing Editor of Internet Archaeology in 1995 and worked part-time on the journal until 1999. He had a tremendous vision for the potential of electronic publication and certainly set the standard for what was to follow. He will be sadly missed.

This issue saw yet another wide spread of content ranging from field survey results from work in southern Burgundy which cast light on the nature of Iron Age and Gallo-Roman settlement there, unusually to what has not been found from pollen work in Spain, to highlighting an online project that aims to teach archaeologists about soils, to a large monograph-style publication that looks at the national picture and nature of portable antiquities (metal-detecting) data and the relationship between patterns of recovery and historic settlement. The issue also marks the close of the first LEAP project with the publication of the fourth exemplar on the Islamic city of Merv in Turkmenistan but in doing so, it heralds the follow-on Mellon-funded LEAP II project.

While issue 25 has been in preparation, we had the difficult task of selecting the successful LEAP II exemplars, and I am sure Alan Vince would have relished in the richness and quality of the selected four. Our final decision was based on which exemplars would give the widest geographic coverage and best fulfilled the project's objectives (to create a multi-layered e-publication with the underlying data available so that readers are provided with the opportunity to 'drill down' seamlessly from the publication into the archive to test interpretations and develop their own conclusions). The first exemplar to be submitted and published is provisionally titled 'The Shala Valley: Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives on Isolation and Change in the Mountains of Northern Albania' by Michael Galaty (Millsaps College), Wayne Lee (University of North Carolina) and Charles Watkinson (American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Princeton). This exemplar will look at changes in the valley's settlement archaeology through time with a focus on the last 500 years and will contain a GIS interface to the survey data including links to photos, drawings, and audio files. In this instance, the related digital archive will be hosted by the Archaeology Data Service but later LEAP exemplars will also be using the new digital repository being set up at Arizona State University.

The Shala Valley proposal included a request to make the resulting publication freely accessible to colleagues in Albania, and this is something we were happy to agree to. This move in fact reflects other developments with regards to our transition to Open Access, which started with our agreement with the JISC which now sees journal content free at the point of use for all registered UK Higher and Further Education (HE/FE) institutions. So to define our current thinking (although this is an area where our policy is likely to change rather rapidly over the course of the next year or two) here's a quick summary soon to be enshrined in the next version of our editorial policy and which, we hope, demonstrates our commitment during this period of Open Access transition.

  1. For all future content, where the topic focus is on archaeology from a developing country, access to that content will be made freely available to the country in question (probably via country code top-level domain)
  2. With the author's consent, content will be made Open Access where the full development costs of the article are met.

Although for the moment these initatives will not be backdated to already published content, we hope that these developments will be viewed positively by the archaeology community at large and will attract even more quality content to the journal. There has certainly been a general shift in favour of Open Access in the past decade but this has mostly occurred within what could be called the 'hard sciences'. Open Access (author/funder/institution pays to publish) is not so widely employed in the humanities since identifying sources / procuring funding is often a big challenge (most, but not all archaeology sits in the humanities, but see Nisha Doshi's recent thought-provoking blog on the matter: Open Access Archaeology and PLoS). However new funding models and policies are being developed within academia that may further open up this area.

Our strategy is not completely new. For quite a while, we have asked authors if they can supply subventions and have offered Open Access in the past for specific papers to non-HE sponsoring bodies on condition that they also provide a subvention. Our main difficulty to date in implementing this, certainly within HE, has been that many authors undertake research that is 'unfunded' or funded via "quality research" (QR) income to their University so they find it difficult to identify a sponsor. The bottom line is in order to make the full transition, authors will have to get into the habit of bidding for funds. But we'd certainly like to be involved in that change and hope to encourage authors to factor in digital publication costs right at the start of funding bids and applications, whether they're in the academic or commercial sector. Hopefully small steps turning to giant leaps!

Back to Issue 25


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